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Ultimate Guide to Growing the Best Aquaponics Chilis

best aquaponics chilis

When it comes to choosing plants for your aquaponics system, leafy greens and herbs are often a top choice; typically because they are easy to grow in the soilless conditions. But of course, these are not the only types of edible plants that thrive in aquaponics; in many cases, so do spices, and chilis are a great choice if you’re a fan of hot and spicy foods. There are an estimated 4,000 different species of chili but this number is though to jump dramatically when accounting for undomesticated wild varieties, of which there could be as many as 50,000. Although there are thousands of species, not all will thrive in aquaponics, so unless you’re aiming to test a range of varieties yourself, it’s a good idea to select one of species known to be amongst the best aquaponics chilis.

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Why Grow Chilis in Aquaponics?

Chilis are known for their kick and the many variants offer different levels of heat. From the mild spice of bell peppers, to the hottest chilis in the world; the Pepper X and Carolina Reaper, both of which reach 2 million in Scoville Heat Units (SHU); a measure of the concentration of capsaicinoids. Since the hottest chilis ever grown might not be the go-to species for your home aquaponics system, you’ll be pleased to know that the other, more commonly eaten varieties can be grown in aquaponics.

Certain types of chilis are a great option for aquaponics because they are small, lightweight, fast growing, and extremely popular for cooking. Chilis prefer warmer climates, which means they might not be suitable for colder locations where 24/7 climate control isn’t viable. However, as long as you’re able to keep temperatures stable, maintaining safe temp ranges for chilis shouldn’t be too difficult; water between 60-80°F / 15.5-26.5 °C and air between 70-90°F / 21.1-32.2°C.

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Health Benefits of Chilis

In addition to having excellent properties for aquaponics, chilis also provide a number of health benefits when consumed on a regular basis. These health benefits can include:

  • Boosts immune system
  • Reduces risk of cancer
    Reduces risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Promotes healthy hair and skin
    Promote eye health
  • Promotes healthy heart
  • Promotes red blood cell growth
  • Reduces joint pain
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Improves gut health
  • Improves metabolism
  • Prevents allergies
  • Prevents bad breath
  • Treats migraines
  • Aids weight loss
  • Discover more benefits here

Chilis are a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E, as well as potassium and folic acid. They can also help prevent food poisoning thanks to the antimicrobial properties that have the ability to kill a wide range of bacteria.


Chilis can be mildly irritant to the skin, just as it is on the palette when eaten. This is due to concentration of capsaicin, chemically known as 8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide, which reacts with body tissues to create a burning sensation. Despite this irritant, the hot spice is still known to offer many health benefits.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Growing Chilis in Aquaponics

Although chilis aren’t the most popular choice for aquaponics, there are number of advantages growing the spice can provide. Of course, along with any benefits always comes with some compromise, however, when it comes to growing chilis in aquaponics, there might not be as many disadvantages as you might think.


Popularity: Chilis are eaten on a daily basis worldwide. There’s almost an endless amount of recipes you can create with chilis, from the traditional hot and spicy dishes popular in the east, to a growing list of western dishes that benefit from the added heat, the spice is extremely versatile. This doesn’t just apply to savory foods either, as new trends such as chili ice cream and even cocktails containing the fiery spice, have recently become more popular than ever.

High Market Value: As of 2023, the demand for green chilis outpaced the suppler, which drastically increased prices. In addition chilis have become more popular than ever in western foods, so it’s likely the spice will retain its higher market value into the future.

Size: Chili plants are small and lightweight, which makes them ideal for aquaponics.

Time: In addition to the suitable size, chilis are also fast to grow in aquaponics, Days to maturity typically takes between 90-120 days, but some species can be harvested within 60 days.

Environment: Growing chilis in aquaponics can produce healthier plants with a higher yield. This is because chilis thrive in a specific warm climate, with a water temp between 60-80°F / 15.5-26.5 °C and air temp between 70-90°F / 21.1-32.2°C, which can be replicated and controlled for with aquaponics.

Companion Plants: As well as being suitable for almost any aquaponics setup, chilis make for great companion plants when grown with herbs, leafy greens and aquaponics flowers. They’re also one of the species that isn’t affected by the secretions in plants from the brassica oleracea family, which means they can be planted with cabbages, broccoli, and kale.


Environment: One of the main advantages can also be a disadvantage depending on your situation, experience and location. Setting up a controlled climate can be highly advantageous to plant health and yield, but it can also pose a bit of learning curve for beginners.

Documentation: Since chilis aren’t always the most popular choice for aquaponics there is notably less information, advice, tips and tricks available online. That said, as long as you select one of the more popular varieties for aquaponics, growing this spice shouldn’t pose too much of a challenge, especially for those with some experience.

Best Aquaponics Systems for Growing Chilis

Chilis can be grown in all types of aquaponics setups and don’t necessarily perform better in any specific type. The three main types of aquaponics include:

NFT: The Nutrient film technique is borrowed from the hydroponics growing method and coupled with aquaculture to create an aquaponics system. This technique relies on passing a thin film of water through the roots of the plants, which are typically placed in net pots that sit in channels constructed from PVC piping. NFT systems can also be configured as vertical farming setups.

NFT systems are popular in both commercial and home aquaponics setups.

Media Based: Chilis can also be grown in media beds. This technique is the most akin to soil grows and uses a grow media to replace soil.

Media based aquaponics systems are a popular choice for home aquaponics due to the straightforward DIY technique that uses easy to find, off the shelf components.

DWC/Floating Raft: Perhaps the easiest way to explain deep water culture aquaponics is to note its similarity to NFT aquaponics. But instead of using channels of a thin film of water, DWC uses deep tanks of water on top of which plants are place in net pots mounted in floating boards/rafts, hence the alternative name.

DWC aquaponics is typically chosen for commercial operations, however some configurations can be ideal for home use.

Best Species of Chilis for Aquaponics

Amongst the thousands of types of chilis there are many that are possible to grow in aquaponics, however it’s advisable to choose one that has undergone as much experimentation from experts as possible, simply to make your job as easy as possible when searching for advice on how to grow chilis in aquaponics.

Although there may be hundreds of different varieties of chilis that could be grown in aquaponics, the 5 most popular options are:

Bell Peppers
Bell peppers, also known as sweet peppers, and are often touted as the best type of chili to grow in aquaponics thanks to how well the species seems to flourish in the aquatic, soilless environment. Not only are they amongst the easiest chilis to grow, they also produce a good yield.

Bell Pepper

Thai Chili Peppers
Some of the most popular hot chili peppers; these small fiery little devils are staple in Thai cuisine, which has become highly popular all over the world. Just like their less spicy, bigger brothers, Thai chilis also thrive in aquaponics setups.

Thai Chilis

Habanero Chili Peppers
An essential ingredient in Mexican dishes, Habanero chili peppers are another fiery type of chili that’s also extremely popular to eat. Similarly to other aquaponics chilis, Habaneros can thrive in the soilless setups when kept under the correct conditions.

Habanero Chilis

Jalapeno Chili Peppers
Another chili popular in South American cuisine, Jalapenos have a distinct taste with slightly less heat, which makes them a little more versatile for cooking. Jalapenos are also relatively easy to grow in aquaponics and typically produce a good yield.

Jalapeno Chilis

Cayenne Chili Peppers
The main ingredient of hot sauce, Cayenne chili is another species with a distinct taste and a little less heat. This makes them popular choice for aquaponics as they also take well to the aquaponics ecosystem.

Cayenne Peppers

Chilis As a Companion Plant

Chilis are suitable as a companion plant for many aquaponics plant species including herbs, leafy greens, flowers and vegetables such as carrots, onions and tomatoes.

Furthermore, chilis can be grown alongside plants such as cabbage, broccoli, and kale, as the secretions from the roots of these plants in the brassica oleracea do not affect the growth of chilis as they do many other species.

Best Fish To Raise With Chilis

Choosing a species of fish to grow with your aquaponics chilis doesn’t need to be a complicated one. Most experts will advise using tilapia since they are hardy and well equipped to survive in aquaponics conditions.

Nevertheless, it is possible to grow chilis with a number of different fish such as goldfish, koi and carp.

How to Prepare For Growing Chilis in Aquaponics

Preparation for growing chilis in aquaponics comes down to preparing the seeds correctly. So on the off chance you’re able to start your grow from seedlings or cuttings then you can skip this step, but if you’re germinating seeds yourselves, then you’ll need to take measures to prepare your chilis seeds properly.

How to Start Chilis Seeds In Aquaponics

In order to prepare your chili seeds to grow in aquaponics, you’ll first need to soak them in water for at least 12-24 hours to promote germination. Then transfer them to seedling trays and let them continue to germinate for a few more days.

They don’t need any light at this point, but they will need a little heat from the bottom using an electric seed propagation mat, or at least to be placed in a warm place. Be sure to keep them moist but do not drench them as it is possible to over water them.

It’s advised to let chili seedlings develop a robust root system before you transplant them into aquaponics. You’ll know the time is right when they are clearly large enough to support themselves. Be patient here, as this may take up to 6-8 weeks.

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How to Transplanting Seedlings/Cuttings

Once the chili plants have grown a strong and robust root system, transplanting the seedlings is performed in the same way as most other plants. Be sure to wait till they’re large enough to support themselves. This should take around 6-8 weeks, but this time can vary.

When the time comes simply transplant your seedlings from the starter tray into your net pots, rock wool, grow media, or directly into the system. Then you’ll need to give some time for the seedlings to acclimatize to the new ecosystem.

To achieve this place your seedlings in intermediary conditions for a few days; for example if your system is in colder climates you’ll need to expose seedlings to the colder temperatures and direct sunlight, whereas, systems in warmer climates will require seedlings to be exposed to shaded areas close to the operating temperature.

Cycling Preparation for Aquaponics Chilis

The cycling process is a critical to the preparation of your aquaponics system. This requires you to let the system run for a period of time so the beneficial bacteria that will perform the nitrification process enough time to colonize in sufficient amounts.

The beneficial bacteria, which include Nitrosomonas, Nitrosococcus, Nitrospina, Nitrobacter, Nitrospira, and Nitrococcus, are responsible for converting the ammonia contained in fish waste into nitrates that the plants can feed on.

This takes around 4-6 weeks to complete, during which time you’ll need to monitor levels daily and adjust when needed. Once the cycling has begun, the presence of nitrates will let you know it’s working. If the process is taking longer than expected you can speed things up by adding more nitrifying bacteria, increasing aeration, by raising the temperature or pH.

If you do employ any of these techniques be sure to readjusted levels back within optimal range prior to transplanting your seedlings.

The nitrification process will be complete when the ammonia and nitrite levels drop below 0.5 ppm.

Note: We can’t stress enough the importance of cycling aquaponics systems prior to placing fish and plants. It’s neither a step that cannot be skipped nor corners cut, so be sure to follow guidelines and only commence growing once the cycle is complete.

If you’d like to find out more about the nitrification process and cycling your aquaponics system, then head on over to our Cycling you Aquaponics System – How to get the balance right article to get a much more in depth look on this crucial process required for all aquaponics systems to function.

Discover all the tools, products and information needed t our dedicated system maintenance page (link below↓)

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How Long it Takes to Grow and Harvest Aquaponics Chili

Chilis grow relatively fast compared with some other plants, the complete time from planting seeds to harvest can take anywhere from 90-120 days.

This quick growing period is one of the main advantages of growing chilis in aquaponics, as well as getting to eat your fresh, organic produce.

Optimal Levels For Growing Chilis in Aquaponics

As will all aquaponics systems, when growing chilis you’ll need to monitor a number of parameters and adjust levels if they fall out of safe operating ranges. Monitoring and maintaining the system is by far the most important responsibility you’ll need to adhere to, as the system can and will collapse extremely quickly if levels get out of control.

Parameters you’ll need to monitor to maintain the healthiest aquaponics systems include:

Water Cleanliness: It’s always a good idea to start out with a clean water source since this is essentially the lifeline of the organisms in the system. Be sure to use dechlorinated water, which can be made by adding sodium thiosulfate or sodium bisulfite, or by allowing the water sit long enough for the chlorine to evaporate.

Water Temperature: Chilis enjoy a warmer climate than many other plants. Aim to keep the water temperature between 60-80°F / 15.5-26.5 °C.

Air Temperature: Since chilis expect a warmer climate, it may not be advisable to grow them in colder climate where they could be exposed to non-heated areas. Be sure to keep the air temp between 70-90°F / 21.1-32.2°C to ensure the survival of your aquaponics chilis.

pH level: The ideal pH level for chilis is between 6.0-6.5, which is ever so slightly higher than some other popular aquaponics plants.

Ammonia: Like all plants, ammonia is toxic to Chilis; therefore you’ll need to ensure the levels stay below 0.5 ppm.

Nitrates: Chilis generally prefer a tighter range when it comes to nitrate levels, somewhere between 20-120ppm. 

Dissolved Oxygen (DO): Chilis should do well at standard DO levels common to aquaponics systems. This around 3 mg/liter, as this is the point where nitrification occurs. Fish will typically require more DO than this regardless, between 4-5 mg/liter, so you’ll naturally be hitting sufficient DO concentrates for the chilis too.

Light: At a minimum chilis require 12 hours of light per day. However, they are known to flourish when exposure to 14-16 hours of light per day.

Plant Spacing: Most chilis varieties prefer spacing between 15-18 inches, however, smaller varieties can be placed as close as 12 inches to each other

Limiting Macronutrient and Micronutrients

Limiting macro and micronutrients may be a term that’s new to you, especially if you’re new to aquaponics. The term is dependent on the context, for example, it can be applied to any nutrient, (Nitrogen), K (Potassium), etc., once it reaches levels that ‘limit’ the growth and survival of the plant.

Monitoring and Maintenance

Maintenance is the all-important key to running healthy aquaponics systems. This is done by visually monitoring and assessing all parts of the setup for any problems, then acting quickly should you spot anything wrong.

Maintenance can be performed using 6-1 test strips, as well as devices such as pH sensors/testers, thermometers, and dissolved oxygen sensors.

Control Pests & Disease

In addition to regularly checking levels you’ll also want to check for pests and signs of disease. Pests and disease often occur when one or more of the levels fall outside safe operating ranges, or when contaminates are allowed to enter the ecosystem.

To protect chilis from bugs naturally you can spray the plants with solution made from water and garlic, hot peppers, blood meal or soap.

To combat an infestation you can try using the larvae of aphid midges, know as Aphidoletes aphidimyza, ladybugs, or lacewigs. Whereas neem oil or a citrus-based insecticidal oil can be used to prevent infestations.


The importance of hygiene when handling plants. Hygiene is often overlooked when handling plants and fish, and this lack of cleanliness can lead to problems with pest, disease and even death. Simply ensure that you handle your system, plants and fish, with clean tools, and/or hands. This should be sufficient to keep the ecosystem free from contaminates.

How to Harvest Chilis in Aquaponics

Harvesting chilis is another task that makes them great for aquaponics, as they’re extremely easy to harvest. The chilis can be picked from the plant just before, or when they’re fully ripe. They can be left to ripen in the sun, or left even longer to get the sundried taste.

Chilis will give you a visual sign when they’re ready to harvest. This is typically just as the color begins to even out, however, each seed packet will give instructions on what to look for, so you can often find additional guidance there.

As with any experimentation it’s a good idea to keep a record of all levels throughout the grow. This information can be extremely valuable as it can be utilized to help fine tune future grows.

In Conclusion

Although not always the most popular choice, chilis are a great plant to grow in aquaponics. They bare all the properties that make them suitable for the soilless technique, and they’re surprisingly easy to grow considering how little they seem to be promoted as an aquaponics plant.

As well as being easy to grow, they’re perhaps the most popular spice and can be added to almost any dish. Furthermore they can be grown in all types of aquaponics systems, so no matter what method you choose, chilis will always be an option for your aquaponics system.

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